John Kerrigan

John Kerrigan is a professor of English at Cambridge. His works include Shakespeare’s Binding Language, Revenge Tragedy: Aeschylus to Armageddon and Archipelagic English: Literature, History and Politics 1603-1707.

Slavery and Revenge

John Kerrigan, 22 October 2020

In​ Mrs Flanigan’s Antigua and the Antiguans, published in 1844, we are told about a plantation overseer who acted against pilfering slaves. His rigour

caused him to be disliked, and determined one among them, more heartless, perhaps, than the rest, to undertake his destruction. On Christmas day, Mr Brown rode to … a neighbouring estate, and upon his return in the evening...

In​ the first book of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, the heroine remembers her childhood. Orphaned in Italy and educated by her aunt in an English country house, she was given pious tracts to read, learned some algebra and embroidered a shepherdess who was

        lovelorn with pink eyes To match her shoes, when I mistook the silks;...

Last summer, the National Theatre put on Timon of Athens as a play about the credit crunch. Simon Russell Beale was the glossy, well-fed protagonist, a wealthy patron of the arts and liberal dispenser of gifts, who plunges into misanthropy when he can borrow no more and his friends reject him. The production was stylishly contemporary, set in the expensive interiors of Mayfair and Canary...

The Ticking Fear: Louis MacNeice

John Kerrigan, 7 February 2008

As Louis MacNeice lay dying in 1963, his last major work, a radio play called Persons from Porlock, was broadcast by the BBC. It is about a painter called Hank, who starts well in the 1930s, but whose development, as MacNeice explains in a note, ‘is interrupted by the war . . . Subsequent interruptions and frustrations include those occasioned by the lure of commercial art, by...

Old, Old, Old, Old, Old: Late Yeats

John Kerrigan, 3 March 2005

The Abbey Theatre, Dublin, 1938. An old pedlar and his young son stand on a moonlit stage bare but for the ruins of a great house and a leafless tree. The Old Man declares that the house is still inhabited, by the ghost of his mother, heir to the estate, who brought destruction on it when she married his low-born, wastrel father. A light comes on in a shattered window. It is the spirit of the...

‘There is a touch​ of Shylock in this,’ John Kerrigan says of a moment in King Lear. There are touches of Shylock in many places outside The Merchant of Venice, and indeed outside...

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We never went on holiday to foreign countries when I was a child. Not to properly foreign ones, anyway. Although we lived on the South Coast, the family Hillman Minx would head not towards a...

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Getting Even

Adam Phillips, 19 September 1996

We wouldn’t think of anything as a tragedy if we did not have a deeply ingrained sense of order already there to be affronted. Tragedy in life, and as art, exposes by violation our mostly...

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Art of Embarrassment

A.D. Nuttall, 18 August 1994

Humane, learned, un-showily stylish and at times moving in their tender intelligence, these essays by Anne Barton, ranging from a richly ‘mellow’ piece first published in 1953 –...

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Mrs Shakespeare

Barbara Everett, 18 December 1986

It may be assumed that the Dark Lady and the Fair Young Man are at least in part merely Anne Hathaway: a woman seen in darkness and in light, masked and unmasked, always a shadowy haunter of the poet’s...

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